There’s been quite a bit of buzz in recent years about the future viability of brick-and-mortar retail as online shopping grows in popularity. But Pam Schwarzbach, who co-owns Hive of Madison, says a store’s physical presence is still vitally important—particularly when it establishes roots and becomes entrenched within a community.
Pam and her husband, Troy Kattreh, opened Hive of Madison in a 1,700-square-foot retail space on Monroe Street. Since opening the doors a year and a half ago, Pam and her husband have become a part of the community and have further plans for their growing business on the horizon. “We’re focused, and we believe in brick and mortar,” Pam says. “We’re really not focused on the web. You can’t really have an interaction with a customer online.” Her philosophy has been effective, as Hive has brought a beeline of people into the shop from the immediate neighborhood and the broader Madison community.
Hive, which employs 10 people, laid roots on November 15, 2017. The timing, arguably, could have been challenging because of road construction. Despite the challenging headwinds, Pam says the community was very supportive during the months of construction.
When it came time to finding a location to open the shop, Pam and Troy were sold on the Monroe Street corridor, which has long been known for its pedestrian-friendly, locally focused culture. “This was such a cool location, and it just felt empty,” Pam says, referring to the state of the building prior to Hive’s occupancy.
Because of the road construction, Pam and Troy dipped their toes into the local retail pond throughout 2018. They credit word of mouth as part of the reason for the positive momentum that occurred throughout the shop’s first full year in operation. “This is a very vibrant and active neighborhood; it’s a place where people are really locally focused,” Pam says. “The atmosphere around here is great.”
At its core, Hive is an outdoor clothing retailer—described by Pam and Troy as a “local outdoor lifestyle boutique.” While the concept of the outdoors is prominent, the store’s product offerings are not limited to diehard campers, hikers, and the like. The goal for Pam is to have something appealing to everyone walking through the doors.
“We offer casual apparel for the outdoor lifestyle market,” Pam says. “We’re about the softer side, so we don’t carry camping gear.” What Hive does offer is a range of clothing, including footwear, jackets, shirts, and wool socks. Also in the mix are fun outdoors-themed items, such as backpacks, drinkware, hammocks, and sunglasses. Jewelry has also become a popular item within the shop.
Throughout the store, Pam and Troy offer more than 30 brands, including several that cannot be found elsewhere at Madison retailers or, for that matter, the Midwest. Toad&Co, which runs on the tagline “every day is an adventure,” is among the brands featured, and with good reason. The California-based company is known for its line of environmentally and socially conscious apparel, which is 100 percent sustainable. Additional brands offered include Arc’teryx, Darn Tough, EMO, FITS, Icebreaker, INDYGENA, Joy Susan, Lolë, Nau, Patagonia, Smartwool, Stateside, and We Norwegians among others.
The broad array of brands and merchandise assortment could, perhaps, be credited to Pam and Troy’s professional resumes. Prior to taking the dive into retailing, the couple worked as sales consultants for a range of national outdoor clothing brands. When they opened Hive, they did so with the relationships and expertise of the marketplace already in tact.
The shop’s name seems to fit hand in glove into the outdoors, but Pam says it actually is designed to be agnostic as the business continues to evolve and become more deeply entrenched within the community. Speaking to the word Hive, she says, “I like the energy that comes from it and that sense of community. It’s not just about the queen bee. It’s about everyone. I wanted a name that had some flexibility and was fluid depending on what we’re offering in 10 years.”
While retailing is a key component of Hive, the mission Pam and Troy have laid out for the business is broader and touches on all of the important elements of community. The goal is for each person walking through the shop’s doors to feel a sense of welcome and belonging. “We want to serve as a resource to the community,” Pam says.
Some of the shop’s tangible ways of promoting community have come in the form of various in-store events, including the First Friday gatherings. Hive is open later on the initial Friday of each month and holds the gatherings from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Each installment of First Fridays has a special theme. One, for example, was a women’s night, while another was tailored around a guy’s shopping night. Another event was wrapped all around the warmth of wool socks. Regardless of the theme, First Fridays also offer up a number of fun festivities, including servings of cocktails; wine; snacks; and other fun goodies, such as drawings.
A further extension of the community-focused mission within the shop is the launch this year of yoga within the store, offered at 10:00 a.m. Sundays, before the shop officially begins business. More offerings in store and beyond Hive of Madison’s walls are planned for the road ahead, and will continue the mission-minded approach Pam and Troy have laid out.
“If people stop in and ask about where to go for something in the neighborhood, we want to be able to help them,” Pam says. “We really want people to feel comfortable when they’re in our store.”
Dave Fidlin is a freelance writer who has a special affinity for Madison. Dave’s career spans nearly 20 years, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to learn something new each day through his professional pursuits.
Hive of Madison
1904 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711